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Irish PM Bertie Ahern resigns -

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LISA MILLAR: The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has announced he'll step down next month after
11 years in office.

His resignation comes as a public tribunal begins investigating his personal finances.

For the last few years Bertie Ahern has been fighting allegations that he accepted unethical
donations when he was finance minister in the 1990s.

He maintains that he's never acted inappropriately but the investigation has hurt his reputation at
home.

From outside Ireland though, tributes are already pouring in for the Irish Prime Minister who was
instrumental in brokering the Northern Ireland "Good Friday" peace deal.

JENNIFER MACEY: He's been one of Ireland's longest serving and most successful leaders, or as the
natives like to say, Taoiseach.

And after 31 years, 11 as Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern is stepping down.

BERTIE AHERN: It has always been my intention to review my position as Taoiseach and leader of
Fianna Fail in the aftermath of next summer's local and European elections. But having reflected on
the need to ensure that the work of my ministerial colleagues is not distracted from by incessant
publicity about the tribunal I've decided of my own volition to bring forward that date. It is my
intention to tender my resignation to President McAleese on Tuesday the 6th of May.

JENNIFER MACEY: Bertie Ahern has been under intense scrutiny over his personal finances which have
been subject to a drawn-out corruption investigation lasting ten years.

Allegations have been raised that he accepted large donations when he was finance minister in the
1990s.

But he maintains that he's innocent.

BERTIE AHERN: And while I will be the first to admit that I've made mistakes in my life and in my
career, one mistake I've never made was to enrich myself by misusing the trust of the people.

I've never received a corrupt payment and I have never done anything to dishonour any office that
I've ever held. I know that some people will feel that some aspects of my finances are unusual. I
truly regret if this has caused any confusion or worry in people's minds.

JENNIFER MACEY: Business journalist Brendan Keenan from Ireland's Independent newspaper told the
BBC that the public tribunal hasn't uncovered any evidence of corruption by the Prime Minister.

But he says the inquiry has revealed that Bertie Ahern received a large series of payments, some of
which were in British pounds rather than the Irish currency, euros.

BRENDAN KEENAN: The final straw was just a couple of weeks ago when one of the banks produced
documentary evidence that lodgements had been in sterling, and nobody can see how Mr Ahern can
explain what he was doing putting sterling into the bank.

So people then began to speculate furiously that his days might be numbered, but they didn't expect
it to come this way, at this time.

JENNIFER MACEY: The resignation comes a week shy of the tenth anniversary of the groundbreaking
Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says this is what Bertie Ahern will be remembered for.

TONY BLAIR: He also, I think, should be remembered as a political leader who was responsible for
transforming the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and Britain, and for playing a huge
part in the modernisation of Ireland, from bringing Ireland from where it was to being the modern
and dynamic and very well-respected country it is today.

So I think his contribution, in terms of political history, for the island of Ireland, will be
enormous.

JENNIFER MACEY: Tributes have also come from the current British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and
the former US President, Bill Clinton.

Associate Professor Adrian Little heads the school of political science, criminology and sociology
at the University of Melbourne.

He agrees that the legacy of the Good Friday agreement will endure, long after the public tribunal
makes its findings.

ADRIAN LITTLE: Bertie Ahern, like Tony Blair, was an arch-pragmatist in many respects, and it was
the determination of both leaders who came to power at around the same time to drive forward the
peace process which had run aground by the mid-1990s.

I think in the bigger international picture, he will remain popular for his achievements in
Northern Ireland, but obviously it's a reputation that's been tarnished somewhat domestically.

LISA MILLAR: That's Associate Professor Adrian Little from the University of Melbourne ending that
report by Jennifer Macey.